The Great Kingston Conflagration

April 17, 1840
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Kingston Fire Department Hook and Ladder Truck No.2 on parade in 1909. Kingston Volunteer Fire Companies by the 1830’s had 3 hand engines and one hook and ladder truck. Source: Queen’s University Archives, Kingston Picture Collection.

As American Steamer, the Telegraph, attempts to leave Coupler’s Wharf, sparks fly from its flume and ignite the largest fire in the history of Kingston. Among the ruins are 40-50 buildings, the steamer Cataraqui and the schooner Lord Nelson. One of the stores that caught fire contained approximately 100 kegs of improperly stored gun powder, which exploded spreading the fire further and, in some reports, killing 3 men. Volunteer fire companies, military and members of the community rallied to tackle the blaze putting in great physical effort, but the best they could do was prevent the further spread of the fire. It destroyed homes and business and left upwards of 45 families homeless.